Culture-Inspired Brand Messages: Translating to “Hispanic”

Translating Brand Messages to “Hispanic” in Culture-Inspired Marketing

Should we add Spanish to the mix … or Spanglish, maybe? Is it better to translate or “transcreate” my brand message? Or keep it just in English? If I use Spanish, how do I ensure that my brand message stays the same?

Marketers and agencies may not always agree about the role language plays in marketing.  Many marketers’ first reaction is to look for differences between the Hispanic and the non-Hispanic consumer.  Unfortunately, sometimes these differences are ignored until the brand already has a full-blown mainstream marketing strategy program, when the marketers then ask, “OK, how do ‘Latinize’ this?”  It’s as if they thought Hispanics lived in a bubble, in isolation from the rest of the nation.

Culture-Inspired marketing, on the other hand, understands that Hispanics are part of the mainstream. You can find Hispanics in every walk of life and every stage in life – white collar and blue collar, newborns and seniors, preschoolers and college graduates, married and unmarried, moms and childless.

So, when developing a marketing strategy, it makes sense to integrate Hispanic insights from the start.  

Language and Culture

Translating messages for Latino culture - Shoppers
Some of those Hispanic insights are related to language usage.  Marketers need to keep in mind that not all Hispanics speak Spanish. Many come from families that haven’t spoken Spanish for generations. In fact, not all Hispanics are recent immigrants – they didn’t cross the border; the border crossed them over 150 years ago. And U.S. births, not immigration, are now driving Hispanic population growth.

Simply adding Spanish to the mix is clearly not the solution to reaching all Hispanics.  

At the same time, the migratory flow is not coming to an end anytime soon.  While newcomers may not be as fully bilingual/bicultural as the rest of the broader Hispanic population, they usually end up with some level of English. Immersed in an environment where English is the predominant language, people tend to adopt and adapt English words and phrases into their mother tongue. The result for Spanish speakers is Spanglish, which sometimes even travels back to Latin America.

Using Spanglish in marketing isn’t always bad, but only if it is strategic, utilized in the right context and is natural.

Many U.S. Spanish speakers may be comfortable holding an everyday conversation in English at work or with friends. But when it comes to financial topics or medical scenarios, for instance, some prefer (and for others, it’s a must) to obtain information in Spanish. That’s when translation becomes essential.

The term “transcreation” was coined when bad translators gave the craft a bad name. A good translation incorporates subtle differences in meaning to get a message across in a culturally relevant manner. Doing so always requires adaptations.

An effective way to create bilingual context is to develop both English and Spanish versions of the copy at the same time. Sometimes you find a better way of conveying an idea in English after working on the wording in Spanish, and vice versa. That happens because you’re looking at commonalities, not differences.

Marketers should do the same. Culture-Inspired Marketing® looks at what brings us together, not what separates us.  When the marketing strategy is fully integrated, your products and services have relevance and meaning for more of us. All of us are, after all, part of an increasingly multicultural nation.